Make Your Case: The Acting Categories


Just under the wire, people.

With this first Emmys post, I want to welcome a handsome, dashing gentleman who is now an official part of the (Pop) Culturally Informed team, Brian Pope! Brian is a pop culture weirdo who’s bringing a ton of new and exciting ideas to this blog, and Ben and I could not possibly be more thrilled to have him with us.

And with that said, here are our picks for the Emmy’s big acting categories!


Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder)
Claire Danes (Homeland)
Taraji P. Henson (Empire)
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
Keri Russell (The Americans)
Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Brian: A big trend that carried over from last year is the Lead Actress, Drama Rumble in the Jungle between Taraji P. Henson of Empire and 2015’s historic winner, Viola “Meryl Streep” Davis, of How to Get Away with Murder. I am a staunch supporter of Henson’s lovably tactless and deranged Cookie Lyons, but I have to give a slight edge to Davis here. Annalise Keating checked the final box for tragic TV anti-hero status when a crucial piece of her origin story was revealed in HTGAWM’s much improved second season. No, she didn’t steal a wounded soldier’s identity or anything like that, but, trust me, it’s goooood! And, yet again, Davis casts aside all vanity and pretense to bring the pain in the performance week after week.


Kyle Chandler (Bloodline)
Rami Malek (Mr. Robot)
Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
Matthew Rhys (The Americans)
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan)
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)

Look, none of us watch these shows. Whatever. Nobody ever said we were good at this. Moving on.


Anthony Anderson (Black-ish)
Aziz Ansari (Master of None)
Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth)
William H. Macy (Shameless)
Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley)
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

Ben: We started to see shades of it in Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation, but it wasn’t until Master of None that the world got to see the depths that Aziz Ansari could really play. Dev (Ansari) has some of the inherent goofiness that is is a prerequisite of an Ansari performance, but with that comes the full spectrum of a 21st-century guy who’s as aimless as he is lovable. Ansari crafts a character that you can absolutely identify with while still getting mad with him at every mistake he makes. It takes him ten episodes to figure out his full potential, and without Ansari’s surprisingly real, and potently human performance, Master of None would likely have no legs to stand on. He makes the show. Hell, he IS the show. And what better way to reward him than that?


Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Laurie Metcalf (Getting On)
Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish)
Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer)
Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie)

Nina: Okay, I love the rest of the nominees, but come on. It’s going to be the reigining Emmy Queen, JLD. Just watch the episode with the Chinese ambassadors and the cabin and then come back to me with an argument. Okay? Okay.


Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul)
Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
Kit Harington (Game of Thrones)
Michael Kelly (House of Cards)
Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline)
Jon Voight (Ray Donovan)

Nina: Look, we all know how much I love Peter Dinklage. Who doesn’t love Peter Dinklage? He might actually be the best person alive. That said, he’s also consistently killing it on Game of Thrones, especially in his new role as Dany’s right hand man. This season has been a bit of a return to form for Tyrion, arguably one of the show’s few heroes, as he’s ascended to a high seat in a new government and is finding a way to be part of a revolution for a leader he really believes in. Not seeing Tyrion get kicked around by other Lannisters has been a treat, and Dinklage is chewing his scenes as reliably as ever, providing much-needed levity in a show that can often be Hard To Watch – in particular, his drinking games bit with Grey Worm and Missandei was a quick little highlight of the season, as was his scene where he officially earned Dany’s trust. Westeros’ shortest badass is still alive and well, and Dinklage is showing no signs of slowing down.


Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
Maura Tierney (The Affair)
Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones)
Constance Zimmer (UnREAL)

Nina: I really wanted to pick Maisie Williams here – I very much did – but she has years to go, and Lena Headey’s performance as the consummate ice queen Cersei Lannister is just way too good to not choose here. From day one, Headey has been outstanding and, in my opinion, has been passed over plenty for this award, but after her infamous Walk of Shame, Westeros’ resident bad bitch has been plotting her revenge deliciously carefully, and oh my god, did she deliver. Dressed in her Formation tour finest, Cersei literally unleashed hellfire on her enemies, and though her last child lost his life in the process, the throne is finally in her suspiciously well-manicured hands. Maybe the best is yet to come, but throughout this season, Headey’s fantastically expressive face and commitment to Cersei’s fury has been an absolute highlight.


Louie Anderson (Baskets)
Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Tony Hale (Veep)
Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele)
Matt Walsh (Veep)

Brian: How many times do you have to go viral to win an Emmy? I’m asking on behalf of the sublime Tituss Burgess, breakout star of the post-apocalyptic (not really) comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s not perfect and it’s not 30 Rock, but season two advanced the show leaps and bounds toward reaching both benchmarks. The level at which the show delved into its characters’ psyches made the bingeable half hour therapy sessions Amazon calls Transparent look like a normal sitcom. Somehow Burgess topped the majesty of “Peeno Noir” with a slew of musical parodies played on a bed bug infested piano including (my personal fave) a selection from Stephen Sondheim’s Pinocchio. I LOVED watching Tituss and his construction worker beau Mikey fall in love and into bed…with the flu. Let’s not make the mistake of denying Burgess an Emmy like we denied Tracy Morgan before him, okay?


Anna Chlumsky (Veep)
Gaby Hoffmann (Transparent)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Judith Light (Transparent)
Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)
Niecy Nash (Getting On)

In this garbage year that is 2016, nothing is worse than talking about the Presidential Election. And no one has brought as much grace, humor, and wit to portraying a major presidential candidate than Kate McKinnon bringing to life the grab-bag of political gold that is Hillary Clinton. Whether it’s Hillary trying to pander to Bernie voters, Hillary putting up with the sexism of the media, or Hillary lamenting her political woes to a bartender (played by ACTUAL Hillary Clinton), McKinnon has done a stunning job of creating a wonderfully insane character of Secretary Clinton that is brutal, honest, yet somehow charming in the end. On top of all her other standout sketch-work on the program, McKinnon’s Clinton character is proof enough that she is worthy of an Emmy. And you know that she’s gonna have a ball these next four years, ammiright?

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